Set up of meet.citiesforchange.org

The City of Amsterdam has asked us to set up a dedicated server for them, for their Cities for Change programme. See also this post. There are three things to this. First, we’re setting it up as a scalable server, so when demand rises, we can add more servers to the cluster.

Second, we’re adding options to live stream chosen sessions to streaming platforms, so larger crowds can follow these events.

Third, they have asked us to simplify the join process. This is therefore an opportunity for us to change some of the default configuration options.

For example we can disable the step where you are asked to join with your microphone or only as listener, and have people join with their mike always. That is one step less for the user and probably useful for most people anyway. Especially for first time BBB participants, they sometimes make the wrong choice and cannot talk until they re-join.

  • userdata-bbb_auto_join_audio=true

We can add to this page other options that we find sensible. If you have an idea, suggest it in the thread below and we can discuss why it would be good or not to change that option.

  • userdata-bbb_client_title=Cities for Change

  • userdata-bbb_display_branding_area=true
    Cities for Change logo

A few options to try out:

  • the user’s webcam by default shows themself unmirrored, that’s counterintuitive and has raised considerable comments. BBB has the option to mirror one’s own video, while this doesn’t affect the others’ webcams.
  • userdata-bbb_mirror_own_webcam=true ( If set to true, the client will see a mirrored version of their webcam. Doesn’t affect the incoming video stream for other users. Default: false)

The echo test maybe an extra step before joining the room, but it is valuable as it avoids people doing the same tests once inside the meeting. BBB has a recently introduced option to skip it on first join:

  • userdata-bbb_skip_check_audio_on_first_join= true (Introduced in BigBlueButton 2.3) If set to true, the user will not see the “echo test” when sharing audio for the first time in the session. If the user stops sharing, next time they try to share audio the echo test window will be displayed, allowing for configuration changes to be made prior to sharing audio again. Default: false)

→ missing is an option to avoid echo tests when going to a break out session. Any clues?

  • userdata-bbb_force_restore_presentation_on_new_events=true If set to true, new events related to the presentation will be pushed to viewers. See this PR for more information false

  • The Welcome text in the rooms should be slightly customised, as follows:
    Welcome to “room_name”!

    This server is running BigBlueButton. It is provided to you by The Online Meeting Co-operative - as a dedicated service for the Cities For Change Programme.
    For help on using BigBlueButton see these (short) tutorial videos.

    To join the audio bridge click the phone button. Use a headset to avoid causing background noise for others.

We now have a pipeline to build Docker images from this repo: https://gitlab.com/meet.coop/greenlight

The GL customisation was delayed because there was an issue with one of Greenlight’s dependencies last week, a package that was yanked from Ruby’s public repos due to licensing issues. This means we can’t currently make new builds of Greenlight from Collocall’s code. I was discussing with @hng earlier today the best way forward, for now we’ll:

  1. Deploy the official release which fixes the above problems to gl.ams.meet.coop (I’ll do this tonight).
  2. Work with collocall to merge their code into this new release so that we can use these improvements (eg the download button for recordings).

An interesting repo from a friend of us with bbb & gl improvements: MaadiX / BBB Tuning · GitLab

Useful info here: Big Blue Button Custom settings · Wiki · MaadiX / BBB Tuning · GitLab

We now have the official Greenlight release-2.8.2.2 running on:

We won’t downgrade Greenlight, so we can start setting up users and rooms while we reconfigure it (the db runs on its own container). We can test stuff in the gl-dev instance. @Yurko @elon I can show you tomorrow how to deploy changes made to the GL code.

Repos we’re using for this:

Wonderful, @dvdjaco, you ansible master!!
I have signed up an account at both GLs, please make me admin

Great contribution from Maadix. I find especially especially interesting these two points, but other aspects maybe of interest if you consider so:

  • Some freeswitch tunning to avoid audio crackling
  • Disable alone/muted/unmuted sounds

Some doubts:

  • the pagination, what is that referring to? In case many people share webcams?
  • disabling the audio echo test: I’m not sure how often the echo test really adds value. If it does (by avoiding people with audio settings that need adjustments prior to joining), then of course we’ll want to keep it. But we also know that it is considered a pain in the butt, and especially so for break out sessions.

What do you think, would you like to merge this repo into ours and configure some of these options?

done! and some more text to get to 20 char

some of these changes are to greenlight and others to bbb, we can apply them 1 by 1 to our code base

The ansible repo has deploy instructions. I updated the CI/CD pipelines of the Greenlight repo so that a new Docker image is built and pushed for every commit to the “develop” branch. This branch is the official release 2.8.2.2 plus our changes (for now only disabling echo test).

I’m configuring the site settings, and discovered we can enable a room owner option to set a moderator access code, to allow people with that code to instantly join as moderators. Pretty useful.

In the footer of the site it links “Greenlight” to Greenlight 2.0 – BigBlueButton – Open Source Web Conferencing which is only partially correct. Better would be to point that to our repo with the changes? That said the gitlab meet.coop repo you link to in this thread is not publicly accessible yet :wink: (could you add me as wtebbens to the team in gitlab?)

While testing out the new server I observed that recordings work and are listed a few minutes after ending the session, but the download option isn’t there. When can we expect that? And what about the config options mentioned at the top of this thread? Please comment as to what you consider most appropriate.

I’ll work on the config options tonight, and also deploying the bbb-download scripts. For the greenlight part (having a download button in the interface) we need to be able to build the collocall code, I’m talking to Henning about that.

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I have deployed the previous Greenlight build so that we can keep working on the other parts. bbb-download scripts are deployed via ansible, download button working in GL.

Yes, I just checked it out, it is in the gl-dev one. my test recording shows up in “presentation” but the download button leads to a 404 error

Yes sorry, I’m making changes to gl-dev to keep the other one on the stock image in case we want to compare something quickly.

Progress:

  • Download link fixed on gl-dev

  • Some TURN issues fixed on bbb1 (audio should connect much faster now)

  • Changed these settings when launching the html5 client from greenlight:

    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_skip_check_audio”] = true
    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_auto_join_audio”] = true
    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_listen_only_mode”] = true
    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_client_title”] = “Cities for Change”
    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_display_branding_area”] = true
    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_mirror_own_webcam”] = true
    join_opts[“userdata-bbb_display_branding_area”] = true
    join_opts[“logo”] = “https://citiesforchange.org/assets/logo-8e3e8944e69ee2465bea0dfadb33e200ae92acd24f31cc1d96318377a2a240f1.png

Branding doesnt’ seem to work, need to look into it.

thanks, @dvdjaco : I found a few minor details in the configuration that could be improved:
the Welcome text that you configured is not exactly as the one I created in the wiki text on top. Especially the missing target=_blank tags in some links make that people may drop out of the room when the click them.

In this config (at the gl-dev server) we work without the echo test. And so far it works very well, at least for me. We should test it with more people though. At my PC I join rooms instantly and without any issue. I can unplug my headset and BBB continues with my system mike and speaker, plugging 'em in again and we it goes with the headset. Nice! Anyone is encountering issues?

About the “mirror_own_webcam” setting: It seems to do what people expect: you see yourself in the mirror, while the rest of the participants see you as they are used to.

At one stage, last year, it was really useful, when I was having mic/headset problems. It confirmed that I could be heard before I joined the room.

Currently it’s a bit irritating, because intially the echotest sound is unpleasant, full of distortion or feedback (indeed, echo!). So, it confirms that the audio is working, but doesn’t inspire confidence in the sound quality. Once in the room, audio is fine.

So - can we prominently advertise that an echo test is available, to be used by anybody having trouble with their audio setup? But otherwise, skip it?

Over the months I’ve kinda got used to not being mirrored. But it would still feel good to be able to coordinate my head and hand movements, via watching the screen image. So: I vote for mirroring-on as default.

it’s a server side setting, so we skip it for everyone if that’s reasonable or we keep it for all…